Facebook as a disease? That's a metaphor that many people can relate to and, to some degree, even agree with. But now it's not just a metaphor, but also the results of a new study.
According to this new study by Princeton's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, which was modeled after the mathematical adoption rates of infectious diseases, Facebook will see a dramatic drop in its peak user base between the years 2015 and 2017.
The study, released Jan. 17, is titled "The Epidemiological Modeling of Online Social Networks" and used disease models, "where adoption is analogous to infection and abandonment is analogous to recovery." The researchers further explained that, "Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models." In the simplest of terms, it means that the popularity of social networks, like the spread of ideas, can be studied like life cycles of epidemics.
The study validated its epidemiological model using an older social network, MySpace, then used Google Trends to evaluate social network adoption rates. The study concluded with the prediction that Facebook users will lose interest in Facebook over time as their peers lose interest. "Facebook is expected to undergo a rapid decline in the upcoming years shrinking to 20% of its maximum size by December 2014... losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017," the study said.
Incidentally, as early as October 2013, Facebook has admitted that it has experienced a slight decline in teen usage. David Ebersman, Facebook's chief financial officer, said, "we did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens," although he also mentioned that accuracy in the analysis is probably made a little bit more difficult by the adolescent tendency to disclose their true age.
This admission came at around the same time of another study by Piper Jaffray Companies, in its bi-annual "Taking Stock with Teens" market research. The study revealed that other social networking sites like Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr are rapidly gaining popularity among teens. The Piper Jaffray study, which surveyed 8,650 teens with the average age of 16 years, showed that between late 2012 and late 2012, usage of Facebook dropped from 42 percent to 23 percent. Instagram usage rose from 12 percent to 23 percent. Twitter usage, starting at 27 percent during late 2012, rose to 30 percent during the spring of 2013, and then dropped to 26 percent. Tumblr usage went from 3 percent to 4 percent.
This finding coincides with an even earlier survey titled "Teens, Social Media, and Privacy," which says that teens have "waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful 'drama,' but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing. "
The question remains whether we are soon going to see the end of the 'disease' viz. Facebook. Judging that Facebook mobile alone has over 100 million users, it's not easy to tell. Despite some indications that there is a small rate of recovery in some parts of the demographics, the disease is still a raging infection.